Horses Swinging from the Rafters and Other Antics
The Story of Two Very Naughty Ponies
Monte was my first horse. I got him when he was a 6 year old for $500. I was just starting to ride. Huh, interesting choice....a green rider choosing a thoroughbred as her first mount. Well, that's what I did. "Green on Green, makes Black and Blue". I learned alot from "Monkey Man" and he alot form me. I believe I was 31 when I purchased him. I used him for hunter/jumper riding and we did quite well as a team....well except the jumping part and well....maybe the hunter part. We had several disagreements in those area.
Then, I decided I NEEDED to have a Friesian. I got Ben. He was from Holland and quite a chunk of change. He was massive. We took to each other right away. He loved me so much, he gave his life for me (see my other hub on the story of Ben my hero). We practiced Dressage. He just wasn't into showing, so I used him for casual riding and for kids lessons. He was so easy going...but big.
My fiance and I moved to a hobby farm and brought both boys home with us to live. We got our barn all fixed up and livable for two horses. Let me explain my barn...it used to be a corn crib. So, there is a 16'x24' area in the middle in which the trucks drove through to unload the corn. This serves as our horses "stall" area. On either side of this stall are two hallways about 5' wide, which stored the corn from the trucks. One aisle side would be used for storing hay (that's right...hay...that they could smell and see) and the other aisle would be used for misc stuff like cat food, halters, tack. And there were shelves on that side too.....perfect for horse fly spray, bottles, cans of paint, etc. We had 'er all planned out.
This structure hadn't been used for many many years so we worked hard to get it set up to be "horse" proof. We had an unbreakable chain to quarter of the back of the stall area to keep the horses from getting into the tack, muck buckets and barn cleaning stuff. I was so proud with all my shiney new muck buckets, feed bowls and water buckets. I even got a shiney new muck bucket cart to haul the full muck buckets to the appropriate muck pile behind the barn. Right? We patched and boarded up the dividing panels which separated the aisles from the stall area. Each aisle had a 3' "doorway" you could get through from the "stall" area. We put two heavy duty chains across that doorway which would keep the horses out of the "stuff" but would allow us access. We simply boarded up the 3' foot doorway on the "hay" storage side. This structure had two sliding doors on the front. Across that doorway we put a virtually UNBREAKABLE chain (we did alot of thinking on this one). So, even though the door would be closed at night, during the summer they would be able to stand and look out the door because we'd leave it open. Right?
Let me clarify one thing....I have NEVER had horses on my property and Joe was a city boy....had NEVER even been around horses. My best friends who also happened to be the people who boarded my boys prior to our moving here, came to visit and to see what we'd set up. I showed them the chain "Look at this." I said "this'll be used for.....blah blah blah" is what I think they heard after that. Brenda goes "Really Stimp? You don't think they can break through that chain especially if they get spooked and its dark". My response "Oh, hell no. We are locked and loaded here, baby. That is NOT gonna happen".
First morning we go out to "grain" them. If you are unaware, horses are ravenous when its feeding time. As though they've not eaten for days and days and days. At any rate, I'm inside the barn, I fill the shiney new grain bowls with a scoop each. I hand them to Joe who was standing on the opposite side of the large and virtually UNBREAKABLE chain we had across the doorway...ya know....the one Brenda was oh so questioning. The same one I assured her could never be broken? Ya know, that one?. This chain was snapped like a pretzel as Ben burst through it to get his food which "greenhorn" Joe was holding. Closely following behind was Monte. Then it was just mayhem. Joe dropped the bowls and both horses took off...in the pitch dark (it was 6 a.m. in the winter).....as if to escape this living hell. Really, guys? Think it through.....where you gonna get water, food, love, attention....just think it through. They run up onto the road and Joe is kind of freaking out. Monte, as a thoroughbred, trembles when a flower blooms between the morning and the evening....good Gawd it could be dangerous, that blooming flower. So, he stood on the road, trembling like mad. I've learned through the years that you don't chase your horse...because, well, I've done it...perhaps grabbing onto a tail thinking just my enormous strength would stop this 1200# animal in its tracks. We get the horses back "under control" and into the pasture. Lesson learned...put horses IN Pasture THEN feed.
There are many many flaws to our initial ideas and lots of lessons learned in about the first week of our boys being home with us. These lessons: nothing is out of reach if a horse really wants it, nothing is unbreakable, wood can be ripped straight off the wall if it needs to be in an emergency (or an event that the horse perceives as an emergency...which is pretty much any event), they get bored easily and will dump, knock over, chew and step on any bottle in their reach AND horses are trained acrobats and can use that skill at will.
A few months later, we were out of oats and were late in getting Ben and Monte their breakfast (oh the horror of it all!!). I believe they were thinking since we were 2 hours late in the morning feed that "only the horse Gawd knows when those two will get out of bed and decide to feed us. We could and will be here for days, I tell you days, without food and water. We must use our survival and acrobatic skills at once". This survival skill entailed one of them stretching their head through the chains (across the aisle doorway) and pulling the empty rubbermade trash can (which normally held oats) into the stall area. Apparently, it being empty was extremely frustrating because both the can and the lid were stompted on and crushed....thank goodness it was a rubbermade and popped right back into shape. I got the message loud and clear. I go out, get the oats and fill the bucket. All is well, everyone is fed. The rubbermade container held about 50# of oats.
The next evening I imagine the conversation went something like this:
Monte: "Hey, Ben, Ben, wake up." as he taps Ben with his hoof.
Ben: "What, Master?"
Monte: "Remember that rubbermade?"
Ben: "Yes, Master."
Monte: "Well, the she-devil filled it yesterday."
Ben: "Yes, Master......"
Monte: "Well...if you could stretch through those chains again and grab that rubbermade the she-devil filled, that'd be awesome."
Ben: "Are you sure, Master, we could get into alot of trouble."
Monte: "Listen ya big lug. Just do it! It'll be a little more difficult, but you can do it. " As he pushes Ben with his hoof, egging him on. "That she-devil loves us so much, well me anyway, that she won't do a damn thing."
Ben (how do I know it was Ben? Because he left evidence of his wavey black hair behind on a piece of the chain) grasps and pulls at the rubbermade leaving large gouges in the handle until the can fell. But it was well worth the effort. The 50# of oats spilled into the stall like a golden waterfall with sun beams dancing from it.
Unfortunately for them, the "she-devil" as they refer to me, wasn't the one feeding that a.m. Sad faces all around as, much to their dismay, it was Joe swinging the door open that morning. Joe was less than happy and even less proud of their little antics of the evening. "Guess who isn't getting breakfast boys?" he said. Heads hung low as they were lead one by one into the pasture. The rubbermades were moved.
Few weeks later, I go out to do chores. Usually in the a.m. when they heard us coming, you could hear the deap chested whiney from Ben and sometimes Monte. Their way of saying hello (or feed me, I'm perishing as I stand) I guess. That morning was different....no sounds at all coming from the barn....not a peep. Alright, I thought, maybe they didn't hear me. Certainly when I open the door they will be all happy and full of glee. Nope. Open the door....not a peep. Took me about 15 seconds to find out why. I look over and there they are, heads hanging and knee deep in hay. Monte the master mind, Ben the chump pulled a 50# FULL bale of hay into their stall and once again bellied up to the buffet. I said "Reeeeeeaaalllllyyyy? Really guys? You actually thought you could consume 50# of hay, leaving no evidence whatsoever? Huh, looks like some breakfast is going to be missed this a.m." Monte, who still has his head hanging but his eyes looking up fixed on me....like a child in a boat load of trouble, and Ben looking at Monte saying "you SAID she loooooovvvved us so much and she wouldn't do anything to us.....what about that?"
It's amazing to me how a horse can act like he's being beaten to near death when he is being worked BUT when you are not looking is swinging from the rafters and attempting and succeeding at all kinds of different and seemingly impossible feats. Remember the UNBREAKABLE chain quartering off the stall area? Ya, I see manure on the OTHER side of it one day, along with my muck buckets dumped all over, my little muck bucket cart and bent up. What the heck? I thought. I reasoned with myself "perhaps Monte was leaning against the chain and that's how all this happened. He likes to lean on stuff. Joe tells me later, nope it was Ben (remember he is an enormous friesian). He was crouching down and crawling under the chain BUT when inside that quarter area, didn't have enough room to crouch down to get back. Joe had to rescue him several times. Alright, so we take the chain down, they're just going to hurt themselves if we don't.
Several times, I've walked in to see brand new 25# bags of cat food ripped open and consumed. I thought "hey, we've got raccoons in here". Nope, the horses realized how tastey "Cat Chow" really is....now isn't there meat by product in that? Suddenly my horses like salmon, chicken and turkey?
The first winter we had them at the farm, they came out of the winter extremely thin. Went to the feed store, asked for recommedations. "Well, ma'am (Ma'am? What? Is my mom standing behind me?), you'll need to feed 1-1/2 scoops of Sr. Feed and a QUARTER CUP of Omegatin (some magical and very very expensive mineral that helps them gain weight) 2x per day per horse. That's 3 scoops (a scoop is about the size of a milk carton) and 1/2 cup of omegatin per day per horse. We get the feed and the omegatin. Pour them into the rubbermade containers and we are good to go. One day we ran out of Omegatin. Joe went to get some and it comes in a 50# bag, which when you are only feeding 1/2 cup per day to each of the horses should last....oh I don't know....ABOUT 80 YEARS I estimated. Well, Joe, again city boy, just unloaded the omegatin (which apparently is quite tasty in and of itself) into the aisle with the rest of the feed which was safely protected by the rubbermades. Didn't take the horses long to figure out how easily those bags open...well, they had plenty of practice with the cat food bags now didn't they? The next day, I walk into find a ripped to shreds EMPTY bag of omegatin. Remember the feeding schedule.....1/2 cup PER DAY per horse. That night they ate 50-freaking-pounds. I was fuming....not at the horses....but at Joe for not thinking about the capabilities of the master mind and the chump. Thankfully, on any of these occassions neither of them colliced.
Since then, we have "stabilized" our horse care situation. Ben has passed away, saddly (read my hub on that), Monte is still with us and we've added Jack, the morgan, and Ty the friesian to our herd. I enjoy watching my goat eat their premium horse hay out of the wheel barrel that is about 20 feet from the pasture as all three look on longingly at the lovely alphalpha and grass which is hastily being consumed by the ravenous little goat. And the goat, chewing tenaciously, looking up occassionally as if to say to the onlookers "What? is there something I can help you with?" Only sadness, silence and a small trickle of a tear comes from the horses on those days.©